Meru (Screengrab from www.merufilm.com)
As a child I often heard of Meru Parvat (Mount Meru) as part of the neighborhood folklore. It was described as the center of everything there is. I vaguely recall a neighbor saying it was “greater” than Everest. He took care to say “greater” and not higher. In short, Meru loomed large.
While watching the stunning trailer of the documentary ‘Meru’ I got some sense of the great mountain’s awe-inspiring reputation in my childhood. Mountains generally and the Himalayas particularly have that unrestrained beauty that can come only as a consequence of the enormous forces of nature doing what they do best—make and unmake and remake.
The trailer of the documentary shot, directed and produced by Jimmy Chin gives one a glimpse of how raw and yet how majestic Earth can be. I have some experience of the Himalayas because of my travels to Garhwal, Kashmir, and parts of Himachal Pradesh. They look stately without looking particularly unfriendly. I am sure climbing any of these, particularly Meru, is a harrowing endeavor.
I look forward to watching the documentary and eventually adding it to my home collection. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be getting a wide release in Chicago area. It is mostly playing in the city.
It is tough enough to climb any mountain but to climb one like Meru and then shoot a documentary in temperatures dropping to minus 20F, when your exposed limbs can freeze in a couple of minutes, is an enterprise of spiritual proportions. I am thrilled that Chin and his colleagues Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk had the fortitude to do that because a vast majority of the human race would never get anywhere close to it.
A description on the documentary’s website says this: “The layout of the 21,000-foot mountain’s perversely stacked obstacles makes it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. Hauling over 200 pounds of gear up 4,000-feet of technical, snowy, mixed ice and rock climbing is actually the simple part of this endeavor. After crossing that gauntlet you reach the Shark’s Fin itself: 1,500 feet of smooth, nearly featureless granite. There are few pre-existing fissures, cracks or footwalls. It is simply a straight sheet of overhanging rock.
In October 2008, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru. What was meant to be a seven-day trip with the equivalent amount of food became a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures, thanks to the setback of a massive storm that showered the mountain with at least 10 feet of snow. Like everyone before them, their journey was not a successful one. But they had reached further than anyone else, beaten back just 100 meters below the elusive summit.
Heartbroken and defeated, Anker, Chin and Ozturk returned to their everyday lives, swearing never to attempt the journey again. But they faced sudden physical and emotional challenges back home, too, challenges only exacerbated by the siren song of Meru, one that Anker perhaps heard the loudest. By September 2011, Anker had convinced his two lifelong friends to undertake the Shark’s Fin once more, under even more extraordinary circumstances than the first time around.”